I’ll start off by saying, Manny Machado is a phenomenal baseball player; and any club would be lucky to have him. Along with his stable presence offensively, the 25-year-old’s defense is as elite as anyone in Major League Baseball. Through 211 plate appearances, Machado has slugged 15 long-balls while driving in 43 runs. For those into sabermetrics, he’s also compiled a 178 wRC+ and holds a wOBA of .437. Whatever metrics you value most, Machado typically excels in; there’s no question about that.
However, would trading for Machado benefit the Cardinals as much as you think?
In my opinion, adding him to the Cardinals lineup would be an upgrade; but at the cost of losing multiple key pieces would be the downfall. Below I have listed 3 reasons why the Cardinals should NOT trade for Manny Machado.
- By adding a potential All-Star, and early MVP candidate, the Cardinals do not automatically make the playoffs–let alone the World Series. In the last 3 years, only 3 of the 6 MVP-winners took their team to the playoffs. As for World Series appearances, only 5 of the last 20 MVPs went on to play the last series of the season. Bottom-line, nothing is a guarantee in baseball. Now–I’m not saying guys like Weaver, Flaherty, or even Wacha are individually taking the Cardinals to the postseason. Combined, along with the rest of the staff, could though; more so than 1 MVP-caliber player. Each pitcher on the 40-man roster provides a benefit to this club one way or another. Regardless of which starter ends up in the bullpen or Memphis, they are there as an option in case of an injury or a starter continuously doesn’t perform well. If you think about it, that’s only 1 or 2 starters on the waitlist. And with the Cardinals early on injuries, it’s not a bad idea to have a couple of guys on the back-burner. Overall, the Cardinals have a plethora of quality starters on the roster. By trading any of those key pieces would force the club to rely on others who have never started a game at the major league level. The season is still in its adolescence stage folks. The Cardinals are going to need this premium pitching depth to compete all season long.
- Manny Machado is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Which means he would be a rental for the Cardinals for roughly 2-4 months; maybe 5 if they got a deal done today and made it to the postseason. When organizations negotiate trades, they have to weigh the short-term benefits and the long-run cons. In this scenario, the Cardinals would be losing 1 to 2 players, plus prospects, with multiple years of team control left (roughly 5 years give or take). Basically, they would be giving the O’s multiple players under control for numerous years, while the club receives 1 player for the remainder of the season. Personally, I value prospects and controllable players more than rentals. Especially if those players are Weaver, Flaherty, Hudson, Kelly, and Hicks. I’ll take the risk on the young guys who have shown early flashes of success, rather than a mid-season rental. A rental that will also test free agency and likely end up on another team.
- What would the Cardinals do with the current infielders? They’re already fighting over starts when everyone is healthy and hitting the ball well. DeJong has been a solid shortstop and continues to improve offensively since the start of 2017. If Machado were to come over, that would likely push DeJong to third; leaving two spots open at first- and second-base. Both Carpenter and Wong have logged many innings at second, but have struggled at the plate thus far. Does Matheny start the hotter hand then? I’m inclined to believe he would start Carpenter majority of the time at second if it came down to it; benching Wong who is a plus defender. This leaves Martinez and Gyorko for the starting job at first; and I think we can all assume who wins that role. In summary, the Cardinals starting infield (majority of the time) would include: Martinez (1B), Carpenter (2B), DeJong (3B), and Machado (SS). I’ll admit it’s appealing to the eye. Here’s my argument though. While the long-term future of Machado would be unknown, the current Cardinals is not. The earliest a player may depart from the club is 2020 when both Carpenter and Gyorko’s club options come into effect. In my opinion, I would not want the players already committed long-term to lose reps in case Machado doesn’t resign. Another trade involving one of the current Cardinals could be in order too.
As I said in the beginning, Manny Machado is a phenomenal player and would be a great asset for the Cardinals. It all comes down to the asking price from the Baltimore Orioles. If neither Weaver, Flaherty, Reyes, Hicks, or Wacha are involved, then I would be amused; but I’m not holding my breath.
In the end, I would be surprised if the Cardinals landed Machado for the reasons listed above. The roster is in good shape, even if some guys are not performing too well right now. Their 40-man roster depth is extremely underrated and will be the leading cause for the Cardinals making the postseason in 2018.